The 5 Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies: Are You at Risk?

A third of all Americans are low in the vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. It may be hard to believe that we don’t get enough nutrition given the abundance of food that's available 24/7, but it’s true. 31 percent of people in the United States are at risk for a deficiency in at least one vitamin or mineral essential for good health. Could you be one of them?

Nutrient Deficiencies: Why you should be concerned

Should you be concerned about being low in one or two vitamins or minerals? In a word, yes. That’s because vitamins and minerals are essential for optimal health. Being low may not cause immediate symptoms, but it puts you at risk for many serious diseases that can affect your brain, heart, blood, immune system, metabolism, bones, not to mention your mental health. Nutrients are the key pieces your body needs to properly maintain all of your physiological systems. Missing just one or two pieces can throw off the delicate balance you need to be healthy and feel great. That’s because most nutrients don’t have just one vital role to play within your body, they play many, many vital roles.

Nutrient Deficiencies: How can you tell if you're affected?

The truth is, it’s not always obvious when you suffer from low levels of important vitamins and minerals. Sometimes symptoms aren’t felt for a long time and sometimes they’re very vague and non-specific. For example, fatigue, irritability, aches and pains, decreased immune function, hair loss, and heart palpitations can be signs of many things, including a nutrient deficiency.

Here are the five most commonly deficient nutrients, some of their more obvious symptoms, and the foods that are high in each of these nutrients:

Vitamin B6

The number one most common nutrient deficiency in the US is Vitamin B6. This vitamin is important for your blood, brain, and metabolism. Vitamin B6 helps the formation of hemoglobin in the blood (the part that carries oxygen around). It also helps to maintain normal levels of homocysteine (high levels of homocysteine are linked with heart disease). In addition, this vitamin plays an important role in the production of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers allowing nerve cells to communicate with each other). Not to mention the fact that it’s also involved with over 100 enzyme reactions in the body, mostly for metabolism.

Some of the main symptoms of a severe deficiency in Vitamin B6 are depression, confusion, convulsions, and a type of anemia called “microcytic” anemia. Associated complications of severe Vit B6 deficiency are no less serious. They include increased risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s. These wide-ranging health effects are why Vitamin B6 is so essential for health.